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With Kay Nigro Pope (aunt).  1987.     

The Divine Miss N  

page 5    

Kort suggested it several times: all the while Nyro is making Nested, and for many months after its release and after the birth of her son, “nested” is something she’s aiming toward, it’s where she’s headed. She knows she’s not there yet (in 1978 and 1979). Kort said that Nyro
s wish to be nested was part of her motive for having a child. And having a child helps. In 1979 she is building a nest for the both of them.

It is in the first months of 1983 that she builds her recording studio, with control room and isolation booths, at her home. Now that’s nested. (So, she’s never going to have to leave the house?) Again Lou Nigro tries to dissuade her. My own take: one’s own private recording studio is an absurdity. Like having one’s own airplane. Both are deeply fraught with risk.

One’s own recording studio (at home) conduces toward the very opposite of self-discipline, purpose, hustle, the completion of projects. It bespeaks a weak understanding perhaps of the need for divisions of labor of all kinds. It is not even entirely clear Nyro had the money. She could afford it, but she couldn’t afford it easily (I have heard).

Michele Kort writes:

Recording engineer Art Kelm had indeed built a studio in the main house, which cost Nyro in the range of $150,000 to $200,000. Nyro would refer to it as the Cauldron.

Actually she recorded Nested (in 1978) at home. She had only rudimentary sound recording equipment at her Danbury home at that time but was able to record at home you could say “with the help of Dale Ashby’s mobile recording unit” (per Michele Kort)—a kind of recording studio, “live room” plus mixing consoles, on wheels. I’m wondering if “Dale Ashby’s mobile recording unit” had an auspicious ring for let’s say the suits at Columbia (she was still a contractee) in 1978. A very far cry from the sound recording conditions of New York Tendaberry.

In the fall of 1980 Gil is 2 and she is planning the next album (to be called Mother’s Spiritual). Starting in late 1980 and until the first months of 1982 she is writing a lot. She is writing mostly at night per Michele Kort—an experience (writing at night) she once described as “swimming in a cool dark river.” In 1982 she gathers musicians to herself and they rehearse and make demo tapes.
For actual recording she chooses a studio called the Boogie Hotel (built as a private home in the 1850s, more recentlyca. 2015real estate offices) on the North Shore of Long Island. But it goes poorly. The place doesn’t have the right vibe for Nyro. The engineers don’t particularly like her (actually they don’t understand her). It is whiIe it is going poorly that she decides she will build her own recording studio.


And it is while this is happening (while her studio is being built) that musicians who gather at the Danbury compound, members of her inner circle, and other visitors to the compound including family members are noticing—she has a new friend who seems to be around a lot. Kort writes that visitors to the Danbury domain are noting the presence of “an attractive, long dark haired [woman].” Maria Desiderio is an artist, a painter, a New Yorker, 7 yrs. Nyro’s junior.

1982. Desiderio is Nyro’s partner. She is Nyro’s friend. Gloria Steinem said somewhere—a relationship is first and foremost a friendship. Andin periods she, Steinem, was in a relationship with a man she introduced him to everyone as “[her] friend.”

We do not even in the least know the final cause of sexuality ... The whole subject is as yet hidden in darkness.

—Charles Darwin

What is this sexuality we all know so much about?

  —Andrea Dworkin

Sex as solution, greeting, diversion, alternative to aggression, appeasement, social currency, curiosity, collateral, welcome, wonder, and waltz—clearly, sexual relations play a rich and complex series of roles in bonobo society and raise important questions about our own views on the purpose of sex.
It almost seems that reproduction is a nearly accidental by-product of all the other ways in which sex serves bonobos. Maybe among certain species, especially some primates, sex has evolved [way] beyond
its simple reproductive beginnings.

Gerald Callahan, Ph.D.


At the time of this writing—in December 2017—I am at one of the branch libraries (in New York) and seated at one of the long tables in the library’s main reading room. I am wholly 100 percent into what appears on the screen of my laptop. Like everyone else. Everyone else in the room has his laptop or other digital device and is entirely focused on his screen. I am getting ready to leave the library—and I am looking at a small number of photos of Laura Nyro I have stored in a folder on the desktop. I am packing up my things and the woman sitting right next to me looks at me for a fraction of a second. We look at each other for an instant and she says, in kind of a nice way, “I see you like Laura Nyro.” I nod and I smile. She then says, “I knew her slightly.” I nod and smile again. Then I say after sort of a long pause, “How did you know her?”

Which strikes me immediately as having been a little rude. I have in effect said, “You knew her? Prove it.” And I didn’t mean to say it. I don’t really care. Even if she is fibbing 100 percent—we all tell fibs—I don’t care. But to my question (How did you know her?) she responds in an insinuating (physically insinuating) voice, “Well first I’m a dyke.” [Pause.] “And she was a dyke.” Her voice is loud-ish and it goes everywhere in the large quiet room. People look up and look our way. She is also getting ready to leave and when she says, in her loud, clear voice, “first I’m a dyke,” we are standing face to face. When she says it it is oddly or even weirdly sexy for a moment or two.

And for just an instant I almost break out laughing. Her response to my question is so unexpected and gratuitous it awakens the silly in me, I actually need to suppress laughter. I never did learn (satisfactorily) how she knew Laura Nyro.

Bob Sarlin is the author of Turn It Up! I Can’t Hear the Words: Singer-Songwriters Then and Now (1973). His subjects are Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Don McLean, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, others. I read the book in the summer of 1974. I loved it. I sometimes carried it around with me (in 1974). It was reprinted in 1993 with a new introduction. The 1993 introduction is comprised of reassessments of the singer-songwriters reported on in the first edition and reviews of what they had done in the 20 yr. interim. Sarlin writes in the 1993 introduction that Nyro had disappeared from the scene for a while and (by 1993) has “emerged as a proud lesbian.”

In the pages of the Village Voice in the years after her death she was sometimes “lesbian singer-songwriter Laura Nyro.” In the classified advertising section of the Village Voice was a subsection titled I believe “Music Public Notice.” I remember reading in Music Public Notice many times, perhaps 15 times in the first 6 or 8 years after her death (I never saw it before her death): notices of upcoming performances at live music bars on Bleecker Street that included the words: “a tribute to lesbian singer-songwriter Laura Nyro.”

In the abovementioned New York Times piece by Deborah Sontag, “An Enigma Wrapped in Songs,” Sontag had written—the 1970s were “a decade of major life events for Nyro” and in that decade “she quietly moved into a lesbian social world.”

Not exactly. Not exactly. Not exactly. And not really.

No cigar times 4. No one gets a gold star.

I know persons for whom the gay/straight dichotomy is a final realitythe final reality. It is for these persons (persons gay as well as straight) a powerful schema that orders the cognitive world. It supersedes other cognitive schemes and occasionally crushes them by its sheer weight. These individuals know the sexual orientation (gay, straight, bisexual) of every character in every work of fictional art (novels, movies, television) of the last 40 years—i.e. every work of fictional art with which they’re familiar. You can even test it. Ask them about a particular character in a particular work of art, then ask about his or her (the character’s) sexual orientation. You will have a prompt answer. We are not told and we do not know the sexual orientation (or a 19th century equivalentthere are several) of a single character in all of Dickens.

In contrast
I know a small number of persons for whom the gay/straight dichotomy means little. Which is not to say it means nothing (for them). In the ways that these persons order information—it means something. It just doesn’t mean a lot. Laura Nyro I believe was in this group.

For these others and for Nyro the terms “gay” and “straight” mean little. The terms do not mean nothing (altho’ yet others are claiming even this). Under the ways these persons order information—they mean next to nothing.

There was Nyro’s well known antipathy toward “labels.”
I don’t think it was all labels. I think it’s perhaps evident: the kind of label she detested.

There is something about the splitting of humanity into gay and straight that engenders a scintilla of unease in everybody (not just in those left holding the bag). This same unease is (very often) what people are pointing to when they say they “don’t like labels”—something one hears often. In stations high and low, in conversations of all kinds it is not uncommon (when the conversation veers toward sexual stuff and the putative sexual orientations of persons) that one hears/overhears things like: “You know I really don’t like labels,” and the more peremptory “I will not be labeled!” So... persons tend not to like these labels. Do they think they’re bullshit or what?

Nyro sometimes consented to phone interviews. I once listened to a segment of a phone interview she had given to a Swedish fan (calling her from Sweden) in which she stated: she would not allow herself to be labeled anything by anyone.

Michele Kort writing in her book:

[A]fter she got together with Desiderio, Nyro would not have appreciated being called a lesbian or having been described as “coming out.” She preferred to be called “woman-identified,” according to Janice Nigro. Richard Denaro, her San Francisco hairdresser friend, remembers a long conversation with her about her abhorrence of labels. “She made very clear to me that she would never allow herself to be labeled anything by anyone,” he says. “She felt that to say someone was gay or lesbian or bisexual was merely another form of separatism, and there was enough separatism without that.”


The bit about 
merely another form of separatism sounds a bit too touchy-feely perhaps. It also sounds as if Nyro was not bashful about snubbing a multitude of then prevailing orthodoxies.

Paglia writing in Sexual Personae: “In western culture there can never be a purely physical or anxiety-free sexual encounter.” In western culture there can never be an entirely banal or anxiety-free use of the word gay, or the word straight.

So Nyro loved other women as well as men. “Bisexual” is the term (the label) we’ve all settled on. I don’t mind that she is (sometimes) called “dyke.” I’m not that squeamish. (I think that—in the period she lived with Desiderio she was certainly a dyke.) Her friend Linda Carroll (her best friend ca. 1969) said to me (in an email):

I was very surprised to read stuff about Laura’s being gay. I never got any of that from her, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. ... The reports of her being a lesbian just [made it] impossible for me to feel it was the whole story. I have no discomfort with gayness and I had no problem seeing Laura with women but I had a problem not seeing her with men. I knew her and I knew that she was often spellbound by the charms of men and by the dynamics of the male/female relationship. She related to it and was often so absorbed in it. [Emphasis in the original.]

That’s not bad. Rather well put I think. Factor in: Carroll is talking about 50 years ago.

It is just when one reflects on
lesbian singer-songwriter Laura Nyro that one has qualms (fleeting ones?) on the dependability/fixedness of all or at least most sex and gender related “labels.”

Not that it means a lot. She was young at the time. But Nyro said in an interview, at the time of New York Tendaberry [Michael Thomas, May 1969; “A Bronx Ophelia in Black Velvet,” Eye Magazine]—that as a young woman she considered becoming a Catholic nun but decided against it because she “liked men too much.” She said in the same interview: “I like men and God. But I must have both.” One might say, to oneself, fleetingly: strange words for a lesbian.

Reminds me slightly of—Andrea Dworkin, lesbian writer Andrea Dworkin (who publicly self-identified as lesbian) writing of her “first love,” her love affair with her Greek soldier boyfriend (she was living in Heraklion, Crete): she described herself in that period as “very much a woman, adoring of men’s bodies”—as a woman “who loved to be fucked, who glorified in cock.” These are perhaps strange words for a lesbian.

In respect of popularity, gender deconstruction is a stinkbombgenerally speaking. It is not corresponding to but actually goes counter to current zeitgeists (or orthodoxies). At any rate—Laura Nyro the sex and gender deconstructionist. More by accident than design.

Nyro was “basically bisexual” per Patty Di Lauria and Michele Kort. N
yro rejected the term bisexual for herself. Heard often: “Everyone is bisexual.” And: “No one is bisexual really.” So which is it? Everyone or no one? In neuroscience the bet is: no one. In the 1990s biologists looked at nuclei (clusters of neurons) in the hypothalamus and other parts of the brain. They studied markers on the X chromosome. They were looking to crystallize the difference(s) between gay and straight. They failed actually. It is the common wisdom that they succeeded.

Bisexuality (actually predisposition to bisexuality, “constitutional bisexuality” per Sigmund Freud), accompanied in the physical realm (physical—anatomic—histologic—physiologic—chemical) by “bisexedness,” is, it is my understanding, the human condition. Psychic bisexuality (predisposition to bisexuality) and fleshly bisexedness are I believe a tight pair, they are I believe a unity.

Material bisexedness would also take in the brain. The brain of course is also corporeal, it isn’t just “mind.”

At one time in the history of the planet there was no such thing as sexual reproduction
animal or plant.

Actually there are several major kinds of sexual reproduction—in the animal kingdom. Some animal species have reproductive repertoires (not the same thing as reproductive behavior repertoires): can reproduce in more than one way. Some animal species reproduce principally in one way—there is another option for emergencies. Many invertebrate species are hermaphroditic (the lone organism, the individual organism is male and female). It is sometimes understood, incorrectly, that hermaphroditic species reproduce asexually. Hermaphroditic species, such as snail species, such as earthworm species, reproduce sexually—and hermaphroditic sexual reproduction I believe antedates dioecious sometimes called biparental (sexual) reproduction.

Dioecious sometimes called biparental reproduction, approx. 1.2 billion years old, antedates “sexuality.” The starting point in the evolution of sex is—no sexual differentiation of any kind. Male and female once begun, once set in motion, are virtually indistinguishable—for about 750 million yrs. Sexual dimorphism then begins to pick up steam. At a late stage sexual dimorphism (a material phenomenon generally) manifests also in the realm of “mind” in some species.

The material and the moral, mind and body, impenetrate one another.

As I see it bisexedness and bisexuality exist because they must. They are byproducts of the (slow, gradual) coming into existence of male and female. In proto-eels. Two distinct sexes have to come into being, and then they must be maintained (and then maintained in species that are descended from the species in which sexual differentiation tentatively arose). In a species or species population in which 2 sexes cannot be maintained, the species will revert to partial sexedness, a kind of vestigial sexedness, and asexual reproduction. (Reminds me slightly of land-dwelling species that returned to the oceans.) Bisexedness and bisexuality (their antecedents and primordia) evolved unitarily, as one, in virtually all vertebrate species, across these 1.2 billion years. (Admittedly it would be difficult to envisage the primordium of, or the very beginnings of, sexuality.) Bisexedness/bisexuality is suggested by the XX/XY chromosome configuration, or “system.”

1. There are two sexes. (A very good statement
but it is a rough statement and an incomplete one.) 2. The XX/XY configuration suggests: each individual, each man and each woman, is a sex & gender hybrid. A male/female (and masculine/feminine) sex & gender hybrid. The two (statements), taken together, are compatible statements. They are not incompatible.

Sexual dimorphism and bisexedness/bisexuality would appear to be antagonists to each other but are I believe (virtually) the same thing. One is the other with a shift in optic, perhaps.

I will just mention it: to write of bisexedness is to challenge traditional belief about sexual difference. And to do that is to provoke wrath, to call down wrath upon oneself. When my friend Fran created a website for my piece on Laura Nyro (its earliest iteration) in 2003 I got hate mail (hate emails). One hundred percent of the hate emails were about sex and sexuality. I received no criticism of any kind—except as was centered on sex and sexuality.

So the die was cast a very long time ago. It is my understanding that 
bisexedness/bisexuality is as primitively (as primitively chronologically) a part of reptilian/mammalian evolution as bilateralism, bilateral symmetry, the fact of 2 eyes, and (in some species) binocular vision. Bisexedness/bisexuality is part of the narrative of reptilian/mammalian evolution and cannot be separated from it.

Sexual dimorphism and bisexedness are a chicken-and-egg phenomenon. As thing or as conceptual thing, one couldnt exist without the other. It is conundrum-like. (Male and female are a chicken-and-egg phenomenon.) Evolution is always a paradoxical narrative. Each individual species is a study in contradictions. A species that was not would go extinct. (All species go extinct. Would go extinct rapidly.) The evolutionary narrative belonging to any species entails opposing “drives.” Within many species there exists for example: a drive toward muscle mass and simultaneously a drive toward agility. Compromises must be struck. In my junior high and high school science classes the instructors emphasized: nature wants intra-species diversity, as a species population “goes” from one generation to the next. It wants as much diversity as it can get. I realized years later that that was not correct. What nature wants in this respect: 1. much diversity, and 2. not too much diversity. Evolution (its drive toward biodiversity) has its checks and balances (because it must have them). And sexual dimorphism and bisexedness (here the “occurrence” of the one sex in the other—a vast subject, a 2 semester science course unto itself) are a check on one another, reiners in of one another, a vehicle for negotiation, and a conundrum. Bisexedness and sexual dimorphism do a dance with each other across deep time.

Interestingly “bisexual” used to mean having a bisexed body, hermaphroditic, intersex. Discussions of (corporeal) bisexedness are not unlikely to begin with the question, “Why do men have nipples?” A question Darwin asked. Darwin was fascinated by, riveted by the male nipple. He made a study of nipples. He speculated on male forebears, his own, human and nonhuman, with fully or partially functioning breasts.

Under a certain school of thought a man (or woman) is a gender hybrid twice—1. in respect of psyche, and 2. in respect of soma. Of course this all has to be squared with diversity within the species, near infinite intra-species variation in relation to sex and gender. All persons are gender hybrids (twice over), but not all persons are gender hybrids equally. Some persons are manifest gender hybrids, some not so manifest. There are the near infinite
combinations and permutations. There is a wide range ofkinds of mismatches (in the lone individual), including eye-catching ones.

One needs to look at everyone. There’s the sexy news anchor.... and then more important perhaps there’s the man and woman in the street. 

Visually everyone’s a sex and gender patchwork, a sex and gender mosaic (if not literally). (Incidences of chromosomal mosaicisms including sex chromosome mosaicisms by the way are unknown.) Almost everywhere one goes one sees. A kind of mosaicism. Very delicate looking males. Strapping females.
Big boned females. Gracile boned males. Gals who got Dad’s skeleton and musculature. Guys who got Mum’s. Gals with Dads wrists and forearms. Guys with Mums. Guys, masculine guys, with wide hips and big asses. Gals with pinpoint asses. Talk about your gorgeous mosaicand the greatest show on earth.

Standing in a park (the Central Park, in NYC) at the time of this writing: I see a man with an ass so convex that his backside, absolutely stationary and draped in a conservative business suit, suggests mammalian lordosis, or even estrus (to the right observer let’s say), and a woman with an ass so small and flat that her backside does not, and would not (suggest these)—were that backside prancing away from the observer and naked save for high heels and a garter belt.

Why these particular combinations? I ask. About 15 yrs. ago I was speaking to a biologist friend of mine—and he invoked so called sex-linked inheritance (where the expression of a phenotypic trait in an offspring is linked to the sex of the offspring) as a kind of safeguard against the kind of diversity I’m pointing to.
Sex-linked inheritance he said with a wave of his hand “takes care of all that.” He believed that sex-linked inheritance maintained a kind of near-universal close-to-perfect gender alignment, in individuals. Yeah right. It is I believe a kind of wishful thinking.

Note: Sex chromosome mosaicism is a subspecies (a subcategory) of “intersex.” That the incidence of sex chromosome mosaicism is unknown—is of signal importance. It means that “intersex” is a wider umbrella designation than is almost always supposed. Affected persons (sex chromosome mosaic persons) may be asymptomatic, may be normal male and normal female—in readily observable phenotype. Sex chromosome mosaicisms can go entirely undetected—across lifetimes. Further, many intersex conditions (including some of the well-known intersex conditions, e.g. androgen insensitivity syndrome) are not all
-or-nothing phenomena: they are instantiated in partial and incomplete forms (as well as complete). Again widening the umbrella of intersex. There is no good definition of intersex. Existing definitions are inadequate. The sexed bodies of healthy men and women on the one hand and the idiosyncratically and anomalously sexed bodies of intersex persons on the other—are a continuum. There is no cut-off point. There are no cut-off points. They do not exist. (Thats what continuum means.)

Every human face is I believe patently (and beguilingly?) bisexed. A human face, the adult face, is a contest between feminine and masculine elements. The face is tessellated, a mosaic. The combinations and permutations in this regard are vast, incalculable. One sees male faces (faces of male persons) that have a female character (a female character is dominant), female faces that have a male character (a male character is dominant).
(I’m not talking about emanation or aura, I’m talking about the architecture of the face.) This is common.

One sees male faces that have an eye-catching female aspect atop hypermasculine physiques... The permutations go on and on.

A strictest possible dichotomizing of male and female (and, as a kind of corollary, of gay and straight) is what man wants. It is not what Nature wants.
(Obviously it is not what Nature wants I would say.) 

W. Somerset Maugham said, “Desire is sad.” I say it’s mosaic and kaleidoscopic. And twice over. It is mosaic as it is instantiated in individual human consciousness, and it goes out toward a mosaic object. Desire is bisexual, the substance of it is bisexual, and it goes out toward a bisexed and bisexual object. (Ruthlessly a minority view.)

The opposite of bisexuality is monosexuality (more or less). Strict monosexuality in humankind is a sacred cow. Its a beautiful idea—causing some of us to puff up with pride. When I was 30 and living in the City of New York I worked with a guy who would say from time to time, in the workplace, in mixed company, that he was ridiculously heterosexual. (He was mostly serious.) Thats monosexual (or damned close to it).

Monosexuality of course is indispensable to the Abrahamic ethos ’til death do us part. Bisexuality is a spoiler of, a sacker of ’til death do us part.

It is theorized that some intersex persons (intersex is a broad designation) are reversions to the ancestral type.

More visible, more eye-catching instantiations of bisexedness may point to a kind of hybrid vigor as well as organismal robustness.

What I might call “androgyny” is I believe not unrelated to, and not extraneous to, standards of pulchritude, masculine and feminine. Androgyny is usually, I believe, not extraneous to what constitutes eye candy. We think we don’t like androgyny much (visually). We think we’re all mad about ultrafeminine women, ultramasculine men. What we are keen on, or what we think we are keen on: a man who is all man, a woman who is all woman—no funny stuff. But attraction itself is beneath and prior to conscious awareness. One’s attraction (to anything) is going to precede one’s being cognizant of it (by a few milliseconds at any rate). It is possiblesome persons have incomplete and/or poor understanding of what it is they really like, are attracted to. Femaleness is absurdly sexy. Maleness is absurdly sexy. But what is sexiest perhaps: admixture. Of feminine and masculine elements. (It has to be the right admixture, existent in the right proportions, I realize.)  

Camille Paglia:

Charisma is the radiance produced by the interaction of male and female elements in a gifted personality. The charismatic woman has a masculine force and severity. The charismatic man has an entrancing female beauty.

I see sex and gender hybridism everywhere I look. I see sex and gender hybridism where others see strict (intra-personal) gender alignment.

Mark S. Blumberg writing in Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution (2009):

The world is messy, and nature is unwieldy, unpredictable, and vastly more imaginative than we can ever capture—or ward off—with our blemish-free archetypes. Left to its own devices, nature always takes exception to the rule, undermines the archetype, and reminds us that our ideas about what is natural and what we should do to correct nature’s “imperfections” are as sound as a sandcastle battered by a rising tide.

To use metaphor: Nature “extracted” two classes (two sexes) from nonsexual (nonsexed) protoplasmic matrix. It’s done a fine job. Far from a perfect one. It did the best it could. (Across a vast range of species the process is ongoing.)

In the year 2002 I wrote:

As a student of Nyro I personally get a sense that her relationships with men (invariably) placed her on an emotional roller coaster and that around 1980 she wanted to get off the roller coaster. The idea that one can get off the roller coaster can come as an epiphany. Possibly this was the case here. (I dont think this is an uncommon phenomenon.)

I don’t think it’s incorrect exactly (approx. 15 yrs later). But I think that—in relation to intense attachments and their coming into being, a desire to get off a particular roller coaster could be ancillary motive only—at best.

Attraction is beneath and prior to conscious awareness. In respect of “romantic” infatuationsour sexual philosophers, instructors in “gender studies,” and members of the counseling industries agree on one thing: these events are never chosen. Other things might be chosen, this isnt. It’s even arguable (perhaps), but it is consensus. So called sexual orientation can flip, flip 180 degrees, in the course of a long life. I’ve seen it, many times—or I believe I have. But even this kind of flip per se—does not presuppose or imply choice.

Some piece of the puzzle is missing (and always will be). That so called sexual orientation is there at birth is part of a zeitgeist (part of a fashion). How does sexual orientation that is there at birth square with the kind of sexual orientation flipping I’m pointing to? Poorly. Those who would seek to change their sexual orientation (to “pray away the gay,” to undergo “conversion”), and those who would coerce others to do so, are per the zeitgeist tragic individuals—individuals living in darkness. I would more or less agree (certainly I would agree where there are elements of coercion). But what about when it (the 180 degree flip) happens “naturally”?

Paglia has said: sexual orientation is an adaptation. (Sex and gender essentialists do somersaults.) I thought it was a joke, first time I read it. Then I thought about it. For several yrs. now it is my sentiment. It elicits the question, adaptation to what? To an environment. To stressful circumstance. To grim circumstance. To the kind of grim circumstance that makes a man, or woman, feel trapped, perhaps. Per Simone Weil something akin to gravity is pulling at every man (and every woman) at every moment of his waking existence
. The “brutal spur of necessity” is goading himat every moment of his waking existence. He will get a crush on the special someone a closeness with whom he regards (subconsciously, or subliminally) as the solution to all his problems, all the problems he’s having at that particular moment. Or she will. Related to this I have across the years watched a small number of young women getting married—because (in each case) the set-up she was getting was she imagined the answer to all the problems she was having at that particular moment.

It seems rather circuitous. But consciousness, like the body, is a gestalt. The functions of consciousness are vastly integrated and it may be fallacious
to conceive that high level thought processing never works its way into something as “low level” and “animal” as attraction. There is no such thing as pure eros. Freud said, “All sexuality is a wounded sexuality.”

Paglia has said eros and agape are interconvertible. Much like matter and energy I believe.
Albert Einstein and 20th century physics showed us that matter and energy are almost the same thing.

Mme Paglia:

There is no agape or caritas witout eros. The continuum of empathy and emotion leads to sex. Failure to realize that was the Christian error.

Paglias statement is a radical statement (if I am reading her correctly). I did somersaults, first time I read it. We are used to comprehending eros and agape (very close to empathy) as being very far apart and perhaps as antagonists to one another. The almost universal view in the west: romantic love begins as eros. It begins as “physical attraction.” Later per the conventional wisdom, in due time, other things (agape, pietas, storge, philia, clementia, caritasiustitia—forgive the mixture of Greek and Latin) get layered on.

Think on the birth of love feelings
on the moment one is aware one is in love. It may sound absurd on its face. It is my present understanding that eros and agape (or eros and pietas) are born in the same instant—spring to life in the same instantthe latter elements in this context not rising to the level of conscious awareness. Eros and tender solicitude are conjoined twins, perhaps.

Pietas is very close to agape. Pietas is the kind of love one feels perhaps when one is walking arm in arm and very slowly with a sick loved one, a parent or child let’s say, helping him to get to the bathroom.

Under some theorizing eros and agape are virtually an identity. So called romantic love begins in part as a kind of empathy, as solicitude, as “fellow feeling”
which, again, do not rise to the level of conscious awareness. In other words attractions are vastly complex.

Or perhaps more complex than that. Freud said that much attraction (or most) is entirely unconscious. As a writer Freud was prolific. He wrote and published for just under 60 years. He was sometimes an awkward writer (to be fair
I’m pointing to the translations to English by A. A. Brill). His views on most subjects mutated often over the 60 years. But at the heart, at the exact center of virtually all his writings I believe: the idea of unconscious thought processing. The idea of the unconscious idea. The concept of unconscious thought is what unites The Interpretation of Dreams and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (esteemed his 2 greatest works). Unconscious thought seems an oxymoron—a bit like saying “unthought thought.” The thought that is yours even though you never thought it as it were. In his formal writings and in his letters he uses the term eros, he uses the term sex drive (a term he coined, he invented)—but more often he uses the term sexual wish. For Freud, having hit upon the idea of unconscious thought, the idea of the unconscious sexual wish would not be far behind.

Freud avowed (somewhat famously I believe), “By studying sexual excitations other than those that are manifestly displayed, [psychoanalysis] has found that all human beings are capable of making a homosexual object choice and have in fact made one in their unconscious.”
The latter part of it I dont find particularly interesting. The part I find interesting: “sexual excitations other than those that are manifestly displayed.” We had sex ed in 9th grade, it was part of the “Health” course everyone had to take. “[S]exual excitations other than those that are manifestly displayed” is not a phrase that would or could have come up in class. And it did not. The concept was too subtle. There were sexual excitations period. In all of film, television, and fiction writing of the last 20 yearsthe concept is too subtle. In these worlds there are sexual excitations period.

Freud’s “bisexual hypothesis” in a nutshell: Two sexual “currents” (gay and straight) “flow” in everyone; by adulthood one of those currents has been (in most persons) entirely repressed. How this occurs he didn’t know. Actually the hypothesis was not Freud’s.
Freuds friend and colleague Wilhelm Fliess (to whom Freud was powerfully attached) bitterly accused Freud of pilfering his ideas on the subject of bisexuality. (One should note perhaps: fliess is German for “flows.”) At any rate Freud latched onto existing theories of bisexuality—and was fond of them for their “explanatory value.” Like parts of string theory they seemed to explain a lot. It has been said Freud developed his theory of “innate bisexuality” as part of an endeavor to explain heterosexuality. It is by no means clear—as to who was the originator (of this theory of bisexuality). It is not clear that there was an originator. The concept of human bisexuality seems always to have been out there—since time immemorial.

What is repressed is repressed. It is not annihilated. Freud believed in a general way—what persons repress has power over them. Across 60 years Freud sometimes maintained—the human being, the adult human being, has two sexual orientations (two!), a conscious one and an unconscious one. He believed in “unconscious sexuality” as a living, pulsating thing. He believed that unconscious sexuality was a troublemaker (in the long life of the lone individual) and sometimes wielded real power.

Freudian principle and exegesis are deemed quaint in the present era I am not unaware.

Oddly Freud begins his sex magnum opus (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality) with an extended discussion of homosexuality. (It’s a book about the sexuality of straight white normal people.) Havelock Ellis begins his sex magnum opus with “The Origins of Modesty.” In his discussion of homosexuality Freud theorizes on the dreams and desires of the male “invert.”

There is as it were a compromise between an impulse that seeks for a man and one that seeks for a woman.

My guess is it’s a universal. That isanyone, anyone born of woman who wishes for a partner (of any stripe) must fashion a compromise between an impulse that seeks for a man and one that seeks for a woman—a subliminal process generally. Freud said a few times he was “interested in universals.” As opposed to particulars.

Yourcenar said, “What is love? This species of ardor, of warmth, that propels one inexorably toward another being.” With feelings of ardor and warmth Nyro was, sometime around 1980, propelled inexorably toward Desiderio. In a sense—why say anything more?

Di Lauria said to Michele Kort: Desiderio and Nyro were a joyful duo, were joyful together. Nyro called Desiderio “soulmate.”

In August or September 1983 Nyro finishes the recording of Mother’s Spiritual, at home. Her friend Todd Rundgren helps her out, altho’ apparently he does production work on just one cut on the album (“To a Child”). Michele Kort writes—he had little impact on the project. Nyro as always refuses to take direction.

Mother’s Spiritual is released in January 1984. I remember the ads in The New Yorker. There are no concerts to accompany the release of the album.
She thinks she should go out and tour. She has a bad conscience about it (about her refusal to do it). Per Michele Kort she is alleged to have said (of her not wanting to go on tour), “I didn’t feel like it.” Her son is 5 when the album is released. She is at this point staying at home and being a parent who is constantly on deck.


The album, whose subjects include (in addition to motherhood) feminism and environmentalism, gets a very mixed response. The songwriting is strong. The voice is still beautiful. The album generates only the tiniest of ripples—in the world of pop music, in all worlds.

She is a parent who is constantly on deck and near constantly exhausted. There is anecdotal evidence in Kort’s book
and Kort even states it: Gil is a hyperactive kid. And Nyro is rhythmically opposite. Nyro struggles with the mismatch.

She has gained her little patch of paradise and some stability but it is of course a rough paradise. Once again she loves her place and she loves to see it getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. Nyro and Desiderio (and Gil) are as ardently peripatetic as were Nyro and Bianchini about 12 yrs. prior.

It is the 1980s full swing and The Divine Miss N has a recreational vehicle. In the year 1988 or 1989 I read in a pop music magazine—I think it was Rolling Stone—a small gossip item—Laura Nyro drove a Winnebago. [!] Winnebago is a proprietary term, used sometimes as a generic term. (Her vehicle was a recreational vehicle, not a Winnebago.) But I threw up my hands in unrestrained hilarity and laughed out loud. For several hours and days I couldn’t get it out of my head: Nyro driving a Winnebago. It awakened the silly in me. Or it awakened a sense of the silly. I thought for a fraction of an instant: Joan Rivers was prescient! 

Nyro was supposed to have been a poor driver but she did sometimes drive the recreational vehicle.
Desiderio and Nyro go exploring in the recreational vehicle—mostly in the northeastern United States, mostly in summer. Michele Kort mentions that Nyro “loved being a gypsy.” I don’t know if that (in some abstruse way) runs parallel to the wish to be nested or runs counter to it.

Nyro and her tiny family “relocate” (per Michele Kort) to Amherst Massachusetts in 1986. (Nyro loves the area.) They spend a year there—living not aboard the RV but in rented quarters. They live in an apartment with immense windows in a red brick schoolhouse, i.e. former schoolhouse. In 1987 Maria, Laura & Gil relocate to a rented space in Ithaca New York (where Jan and Janice Nigro have lived for about 5 years). They stay one year.

It was a relationship in which both parties consented to distance. Michele Kort made the point a few times that Desiderio always had her own thing going. Her own work, her own career. Kort also made the point that Desiderio and Nyro often lived apart during the period of their close association—Desiderio renting her own living space.

Something not well known: Desiderio and Nyro are virtually estranged at the time of Nyro’s death. In printed copy on the subject of Nyro it is said often: Desiderio and Nyro were together for 17 years. (From 1980 until the year of Nyro’s death—how it’s calculated generally.) But it isn’t quite true. It was something like 14 years... I heard it first from Lou Nigro. Poet Eileen Silver-Lillywhite (a kind of guardian angel to Laura and Gil in the final 2 yrs. of Laura’s life) has said it in her varied writings on Laura Nyro (including Silver-Lillywhite’s liner notes to Angel in the Dark [2001]): by 1995 Desiderio had “departed indefinitely.” For approx. 6 months in 1996 Laura Nyro and her son live with Silver-Lillywhite in Sliver-Lillywhite’s home.

In 1988 her son is a bit older (close to 10) and she returns to performing. It is her second comeback (the first was the 1976 tour). Summer 1988
I happened to be walking on West 4th Street I recallit was about 5 PM, it was a weekday. A fine summer’s day in Manhattan. Gruelingly hot and humid. I was walking toward the Bottom Line and I happened to see in the distance—I managed to see through the haze—the words on the marquis. In all caps. LAURA NYRO. She was to have an engagement there the following night. I was caught unawares. I went into high gear to make plans to attend the concert. It was at this 1988 concert that I encountered the 3 girls with tape recorder who had camped out on the West 4th Street sidewalk.

I recall that Nyro began the concert with “The Wind,” a hit for Nolan Strong and the Diablos in 1954. It is not a song she wrote and not a song she is identified with, particularly. She omitted the vocal intro (part of the 1971 studio recording) and began with the first line of the first verse. (She often changed the structures of songs in live performance.) She sang (and played) two notes. Silence. She sang a third note. Pandaemonium. In an instant the concertgoers recognized the song—and there was an uproar. Perhaps greater than 90 percent of those present had listened to the Gonna Take a Miracle album and were familiar with her better-than-the-original recording of this doo wop standard. (Nyro’s studio recording of “The Wind” I would call ravishing—let’s say near ravishing.)

In July 1990 a friend of mine living in Portland Maine wrote to tell me that Nyro was going to perform in August at the Maine Arts Festival, which was that year being given on the Cumberland Fairgrounds in Cumberland Maine. (She wrote to me sometimes when she had a piece of Nyro news.) Of all things I remember thinking
Nyro part of the Maine Arts Festival. One is at liberty to suggest perhaps that Nyro’s star had dimmed. By around 1990 the tribe had grown smaller. Her audiences were comprised mostly of the old guard. At one time Nyro’s mere presence in the proper setting could engender great excitement; it was at this time much less likely to whatever the setting. At the fair (it was Friday August 3 1990) she performed on an outdoor stage on a perfect weather evening. I was not there. I called a few friends of mine who lived in the area and asked them to be there. An acquaintance of mine who did not know who Nyro was and who until that evening had never heard of her attended the concert, sort of by accident, and later reported to me that he found her—in a word astonishing. (Nyro may have come down in the world but she was still winning converts.) The concert was minimalist: Nyro and an electric piano. I have seen a tape of the performance. Viewing the tape—one sees Nyro and an electric piano and a purple sky.

But I later learned it was not a good night for Nyro. The acoustics were not good. In the open air sound tends to fly away. There was also some noise pollution (from other segments of the fairgrounds). I read that Nyro was miffed.

In late spring 1994 the same friend, at that moment living in central Maine, wrote to tell me that Nyro was about to have a gig at a club in Ogunquit Maine. My friend announced that she was going to go to the event with a friend of hers, and that she and her friend, not wanting to drive great distances in a single day, had decided to take a holiday and spend the entire weekend in Ogunquit. My friend made a motel reservation. I called my friend a few days after the concert to get the lowdown. Her encapsulation: Nyro was subdued but in gorgeous voice. (The house, “Jonathan’s Ogunquit” I think it was, was filled to capacity.) The audience was demonstrative and hugely applauding according to my friend and this caused Nyro to pick up in energy as the evening wore on.

When Nyro launched into “Wedding Bell Blues” according to my friend—there was an uproar, a riot, the cries were ecstatic.
And my friend provided me with this little morsel. About halfway through the show during a moment of silence an enthusiastic young woman, a small person and rather shy looking (in dressy dress and dressy shoes she looked more banker than hipster, per my friend), stepped bravely down the center aisle and yelled, she hollered, “WE LOVE YOU LAURA.” My friend said there was something nice about her. (My friend didn’t think she was a plant.) Somehow it pleased me hugely and I’m not even sure why—hearing that Ms. Nyro got a very positive reception in my home state.

Small world. It turned out that Laura Nyro and company were staying at the same motel at which my friend was staying. After the concert my friend, flushed with pleasure, strode confidently into the motel lobby and stopped to say hello to the two ladies at the desk. The conversation turned quickly to the gal
who—to the gal who happened to be at that moment the toast of Ogunquit Maine. The ladies had seen Nyro and her entourage in their lobby and they knew that my friend had just come from what was perhaps the only concert in town. The first woman asked with a hint of anxiety, “Who is this woman—Laura Nyro? Who is she? I’ve never heard of her.” Her coworker provided the echo. The coworker said, “Who is she? I’ve never heard of her.” My friend responded, “Oh, she’s a singer. She’s actually my favorite singer. I’m a huge fan.” The two ladies were at this point more perplexed and more anxious than they had been when the conversation began. My friend then said good night to the ladies, and as she walked away she happened to look back over her shoulder. She saw the following: the two motel clerks, appearing to be at wit’s end both of themboth wide-eyedboth with hand to heartsaying over and over again to one another (sort of stereophonically): “I’ve never heard of her!

I never met Ms. Nyro. I did experience, just once: her face pressed firmly against my upper chest. I was one of the attendees at another Laura Nyro concert—again at the Bottom Line.

One of the best days of my life thus far. October 15 1994.
A Saturday. The day began well I recall. The skies were overcast. I had 2 tickets to see Laura Nyro that evening—but that was I believe just one of many factors contributing to my sense of well being. And it was not the principal factor. In that period everything in my world was going rather well (and that has been rare). All persons in my little circle such as it existed in 1994 were doing well. All members of my immediate family were doing well. During much or most of 1994 I was favored with an almost unshakable sense of: geeeeeeeeee, it’s all coming together. It was around my 40th birthday (and I liked turning 40).

I wanted to start playing the piano again and I wanted to buy sheet music. I craved sheet music. The first item on my list was the abovementioned Laura Nyro songbook, The Music of Laura Nyro (1971), out of print even in 1994, rare and hard to find even in 1994.
(The copy I purchased in 1972 was long gone.) My first stop was not going to be G. Schirmer’s on East 43rd.

In the afternoon (the concert was that evening) me and my pronounced sense of well being went up to Colony Records (a.k.a. Colony Music), a short distance from Times Square.
It had started to rain. They sold sheet music, pop song sheet music, as well as records. (The place no longer exists.)

They had what I was looking for. I went there thinking I was not going to find it. I grabbed the one copy.

The man at the register, in his 30s perhaps, was a man with attitude—at first. I believe he thought I had tried to cut in front of someone. I had not. I plunked the book onto the counter, face up. He did not look down.
He was silent. I was being given the hairy eyeballthe death stare. He then lowered his eyes slowly (to the countertop) and raised them slowly. It was like alchemy. He was suddenly chatty and possibly gracious. He told me that the item I was buying was more or less a collector’s item. He said a few very positive things about Ms. Nyro as he tapped the front cover of the book several times with two fingersmy new best friend. I started to walk away and he asked me if I “by any chance” had been able to “catch her show at the Bottom Line.” “Actually I’m going this evening,” I answered.

We were on our way. 
My friend Fran and I wound our way down the winding, curving West 4th Street—almost its entire length. The weather had improved. It had stopped raining, the humidity had lowered. The air was suddenly close to exquisite. There were breezes. We wound our way, we strutted, we sauntered, we promenaded. We were on our way to the woodchoppers’ ball.

Walking to a Laura Nyro concert is a nice feeling. I didn’t think I was on my way to hear great music—because I don’t know what great music is. I did think I was on my way to hear real music, not the impostor-ish stuff.

Inside the Bottom Line I saw several persons I knew slightly. I saw many relaxed and happy faces or thought I did. (There may have been some “projection” on my part.) I was struck by a thought not for the first time—but it was the first time it struck me with almost crystal clarity: Laura Nyro concerts [were] happy events. There was a wholesomeness and a calm in the air at Laura Nyro concerts—relative to what is in the air at other concerts.

I was seated at a small table with my friend and I decided to take a teeny tiny walk. I was restless. I may have had to go to the bathroom—but I wanted to walk the width of the room and survey. It was 20 minutes before showtime. I stopped at the bar and stood still for several seconds. I looked all around
and looked some moreand I spied Laura, in black coat and black beret, coming into the hall via the main entrance. Mona Lisa smile in place. It seemed odd—as the place has a stage door (I believe more than one). In the large room there was a kind of walkway—a cleared space extending from the entrance past the bar and toward stage right. She blended with the throng and was making her way toward the stage unrecognized. (I must have had a kind of Laura Nyro radar. I spotted her the instant she entered.) She was surprisingly unobserved and unnoticed as she moved right along.

Suddenly others amid what was after all a multitude of her fans and admirers recognized her and started to point. I saw persons in proximity to her signaling to friends, standing a few feet away or halfway across the room, and mouthing the words: “It’s her!” (I read lips.) A few in the crowd in their excitement began calling out her name—as if they were trying to get her attention. In an instant she was surrounded and engulfed. (All the while that this transpired she had continued to make her way toward the stage—and toward me.) She was mobbed and she was inches from me. It was a crush of persons
you couldn’t move in any direction. Bodies shifted and she was squished right up against me. Her head was caught (trapped) between my mandible and Adams apple. (Laura Nyro was not tall. I am five foot eleven.) My chin rested on her beret. I thought of Groucho Marx. Not at that moment but sev. minutes afterward. If she’d been any closer she’d have been in back of me. She was nervous—I could feel it. Nervous and absolutely silent. I was a little nervous.

A bouncer appeared, a guy with big arms and a black T shirt. He forced his way in (I don’t know how he did it), he was brilliantly skilled at making his way to her, taking her by the arm and getting her to freedom. Set free, Mona Lisa smile restored, she walked to the stage area. There was a hidden staircase (half a staircase, 4 or 5 steps) adjacent to the extreme stage right area—hidden by a black curtain. I didn’t know until that moment the staircase existed. I watched her backside go up the stairs. She ran up. She went up those stairs like a gazelle, like a rabbit. She performed that night with her Harmony Group (back-up singers) and with a band. Nyro was about to turn 47 (3 days later). Her vocal powers were I remember thinking absolutely undiminished.

In April 1997, on a Thursday afternoon, I walked into a Rite Aid store in lower Manhattan and heard Laura Nyro music ringing from the rafters. It seemed a little absurd:
heavenly sound in combination with the almost monumental tack of a Rite Aid. Excerpts from her well known songs (and Nyro was the singer—these were not cover versions) were being piped throughout the store. When I got over my shock I was delighted.

We were listening to radio. I had an idea I was listening to an advertisement for an upcoming Laura Nyro concert. I theorized that Nyro had at long last decided to throw off her qualms vis--vis moneyed entertainments (and all that goes with them) and to give a few concerts at Radio City Music Hall. And this was its advertisement (as I said, it was my theory). Then I received a second shock. I heard what I absolutely had not expected. It was not an ad. They were giving the news. Nyro had died two days prior, of ovarian cancer. I said, I believe audibly, “No not her.” I stood still in the aisle. I was stunned and disoriented. As though it had been a member of my family I went straight home and started making phone calls. My first call was to Lucia (my mother). I made calls into the early evening—giving friends and relatives and so on the terrible news.


I would like to write a few lines about the final year of Nyro’s life. I spoke very briefly with Lou Nigro about her final year. (He said very little actually.) In the liner notes to Angel in the Dark (2001), Eileen Silver-Lillywhite, who was close to Nyro during Nyro’s final years, said a few things about this period—and they are sobering. It seems to me that bad luck and bad news were raining down on her toward the end of her life. And yet she held together. She was having struggles—and that’s not counting the bad diagnosis.

Toward the end of her life she had struggles that centered on her son, Maria Desiderio, her finances, her “career”—and her health. When I first read the liner notes by Silver-Lillywhite in 2001 my thought was: does life do this to everyone, in the end? The answer I came up with was yes. In life one is stripped of many things just prior to one’s being stripped of the big thing (life itself). Edith Hamilton said in one of her books: The Greeks believed all men’s lives are tragic. We of course do not believe that. Here in the west and for at least 5 centuries we are winners and losers. We believe that some men’s lives are tragic. It has Calvinist overtones.

But my few lines or few paragraphs about the final year(s) will not and perhaps should not be part of this—whatever it is. Biographical essay–cum–memoir. I will call the piece “coda” or “epilogue” and post it here. And so my little essay–cum–memoir
is concluded.

May 23, 2018

Not exactly “About the Author”   In my little life I had my own little Laura Nyro.